Could You Challenge the Reality of Mental Health Treatment?
The people behind the vision that is Blackwood River Clinic asked this very question.Their lived experience and time working within the field of psychiatry meant they knew how difficult it was to get help.
In rural areas of Australia, and Western Australia particularly, there was even more than a paucity of options.
Choices available included extended or delayed admissions as an inpatient to hospitals in the public and private sector. Each sector had its own set challenge. By default of volume of patients care in the public sector could not deliver highly individualised therapeutic care or psychotherapy. The private sector could offer specialist care and psychotherapy but was generally expensive and not available in rural settings.
Not for profit organisations offered services for detox and rehabilitation from alcohol and substances but could not deliver the high level of psychiatric expertise needed for dealing with mental health issues.
As a disturbing sign of the problems faced in society, particularly in Western Australia, the waiting lists for the not for profit rehab centres is growing ever longer. Admission can be delayed for weeks or months.
The question was asked…… what can we do?
The answer came in the form of a statement: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
This phrase eventually was built into the brickwork surrounding the clinic. It is a reminder to the owners to support their dream. It is a motivation to anyone coming to the clinic that only they can accept what is on offer and only they can be the change they want to live.
Dr Stephen Proud, a highly skilled Perth-based psychiatrist, spoke of the importance of healing and delivering therapy in a setting that encourages a deeper processing of change, a disengagement with the automated routines of everyday life that distract us from lessons learned. To him, the rural setting offering serenity, quiet and stillness was critical for a recovery journey.
A property that was to become known as Sky Lakes seemed to meet the vision. The purchase of the 34-hectare property on the Balingup-Nannup Rd in November 2006 was the beginning of the implementation of an exciting vision to establish an innovative option for people suffering from depression and other psychological problems.
The criteria of abundant water, rich pastures, hills, valleys, granite outcrops, tranquility, seclusion, bush land, wildlife and breathtaking views were finally met. These elements provided the backdrop and energy of nature’s healing properties for the creation of evidence-based world-class psychiatric and psychological interventions melded with complementary therapy and arts programs.
Blackwood River Clinic was once a stately spacious country home situated on this property. Nestled on a hillside Blackwood River Clinic offers superb vistas of the hills, valleys and water bodies. The setting is spectacular with views of the hills to the north and south, Aussie bush to the east and pine forests to the west.
Following support from the Shire of Nannup and the broader community under the leadership of Shire President, Barbara Dunnet, and Shire Deputy President, Margaret Bird, the property was rezoned from ‘rural’ to ‘special use’ in 2009 by the Hon John Day, MLA, Minister for Planning. This momentous decision provided the platform for the transformation of the country home into a Day Hospital and the building of the equity of access accommodation adjacent to the Hospital.
The sprawling homestead carefully transformed into a Private Day Hospital that maintains a warm and homely atmosphere. There are three substantial and comfortable therapy rooms, with a private interview room, large dining room, kitchen and other comfortable amenities. Lunches and morning and afternoon teas often spill out onto the alfresco area overlooking the property of Sky Lakes and the hills, vales and ridges of the Blackwood River Valley.
Blackwood River Clinic made history on 7 February 2013 as the first facility in Australia to be surveyed by the Australian Council on Health Standards (ACHS) to the new National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards.
On 13 May 2013 the final milestone was achieved when the Western Australian Health Department conducted its Approval to Occupy inspection and granted a license to Blackwood River Clinic to treat 30 patients.
Blackwood River Clinic provides treatment for a range of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, PTSD as well as alcohol and substance abuse. The clinic does not offer detox services. If someone does have an alcohol or substance issue they are required to have gone through detox before admission.
A facility pairing with Abbotsford Private Hospital, a specialist co-mordity private mental health hospital in Perth, helps this process. It is a known fact that 30-50% of people with a mental health issue may also experience alcohol and subtance issues. Dr John Edwards, a highly skilled and recognised Addictions Medicine practitioner, provides guidance in this area. Dr Edwards participates on the Mental Health Advisory Council as an expert in the area of both mental health and drug and alcohol sevices and brings a private sector perspective to the Mental Health Advisory Council.
Rehab at Blackwood River Clinic then takes the form of exploring the reasons for the substance use and the relationships around it rather than a medication-based approach.
The Clinic adopts a holistic approach and blends psychotherapy and best practice models with mindfulness, meditation, creativity, and exercise.
The treatment is provided by qualified mental health professionals working with complementary therapists. An experienced and skilled psychiatrist with knowledge of holistic health provides leadership to the Clinic.
Blackwood River Clinic has established contracts with the major health fund providers to ensure that our services, therapies and programs are available to all those with private health insurance.
Low cost Equity Access Accommodation, Sky Lakes Retreat,was built close to the Clinic boundaries to make coming to the clinic for people in the rural area even easier.
What if you could wipe the slate clean?
Could you challenge the reality of mental health treatment? (Adam Roberts)